Finder makes money from featured partners, but editorial opinions are our own. Advertiser Disclosure

Airline credit cards

Compare more than a dozen cards that earn reward flights and offer valuable airline perks.

Compare airline credit cards

Many airlines offer cobranded credit cards with airline-specific perks. If you fly with different carriers, you might like a general travel card instead. To compare cards, use the table and click "Show Filters" to browse options with specific features you're looking for.

1 - 5 of 15
Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card
10,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in your first 6 months
Up to 2x miles
$0
Earn 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 6 months. Terms apply, see rates & fees
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in your first 6 months
Up to 2x miles
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in your first 6 months. Terms apply, see rates & fees
United Quest℠ Card
Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
Up to 3x miles
$250
Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
British Airways Visa Signature® Card
Earn up to 100,000 Avios. Earn 75,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening and earn an additional 25,000 Avios after you spend $20,000 in the first 12 months of account opening.
Up to 3x points
$95
Earn up to 100,000 Avios. Earn 75,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening and earn an additional 25,000 Avios after you spend $20,000 in the first 12 months of account opening.
United℠ Explorer Card
50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
Up to 2x miles
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

The best airline credit cards of 2023

Finder experts have identified the top-performing airline cards on the market for 2021. Have a look at the best airline cards to get an idea of what value looks like and what you might want in your card.

Let’s break down how airline credit cards work

An airline credit card typically offers rewards for airline purchases, usually in the form of airline miles. You can redeem these miles on flights or other related purchases, such as seat upgrades.

Airline cards tend to come in two varieties: cobranded cards that are associated with a specific airline, and general airline cards. A cobranded card usually offers more perks or earning potential for that specific airline, which can play a significant role in how you pick an airline card.

Compare & apply for a card

Look at cobranded and general airline cards that fit your airline preferences and apply like normal.

Earn miles

Once you receive your card, use it on categories that earn you the most miles. Cobranded cards tend to reward the most miles for purchases made with that specific airline.

Redeem miles

Once you’ve earned enough miles for a flight, you can book one through your credit card account or the frequent flyer program associated with your credit card.

How to compare airline credit cards

Aside from the card’s APR, here are a few important features to compare when selecting an airline rewards credit card:

  • Airline. If you prefer flying a certain airline, look for a cobranded card that offers rewards specific to that company. Otherwise, a general travel card can help you earn on all airlines.
  • Annual fee. Airline credit cards often feature annual fees to offset the various perks they offer.
  • Signup bonus. Many airline cards offer a mileage signup bonus when you spend within the set requirements. This bonus can easily pay for a roundtrip flight, depending on your destination and class.
  • Earning categories. Cobranded cards tend to earn the most miles on purchases associated with that airline. If you plan on using your card for day-to-day purchases, consider a card that earns miles on those purchases.
  • Perks. Both types of travel cards can offer a variety of perks, including free breakfast, upgraded rooms, statement credits or concierge service access.
  • Foreign transaction fees. Many airline cards forgo foreign transaction fees, though that’s not a guarantee. Make sure to check if you plan on using your card abroad.’

Pick a cobranded airline card if you fly just one airline

You have two overarching choices for an airline credit card: a cobranded card or a general airline card. Here’s the quick rundown on the major differences.

  • Cobranded airline cards earn accelerated miles on specific airlines and features additional perks or features exclusive to that airline.
  • General airline cards earn miles that you can redeem on multiple airlines or even on non-travel redemptions. They also come with additional perks, though they aren’t usually tied to the airline and are more general in nature (travel credits or Priority Pass lounge access for example).
  • Cobranded airline cards often earn more miles per dollar on purchases associated with that specific airline compared to a general airline card. The tradeoff is a a cobranded airline card likely has fewer earning categories compared to a general airline card.
  • You can read more about the differences between each card and which you should choose at our full cobranded card guide.

    Compare credit cards by credit score and card type

    Back to top

    Pros and cons of airline credit cards

    Pros

    • Earn big miles on airline purchases. Airline cards let you earn better than average rewards on airline purchases. You can redeem these rewards on flights, upgrades and more.
    • Airline perks. Many airline credit cards come with airline specific perks, such as free checked bags or airport lounge access.
    • Earn award flights without airline spending. Some airline cards let you earn miles while spending on everyday purchases such as groceries.

    Cons

    • Can be expensive. Many of the best airline cards come with large annual fees. You’ll need to make sure you use your card enough to offset this annual fee.
    • Redemption options can be limited. Depending on the card, you might have fewer redemption options for your rewards than you’d have with a general travel card.

    When is an airline credit card worth it?

    An airline credit card isn’t worth it for every traveler. At the very least, the airline card’s value has to at least offset the cost of the card’s annual fee. Here’s a quick breakdown of when you should get one and when you should look for another type of card.

    Get an airline credit card if…

    • You favor a specific airline. If you prefer a specific airline over others, you might be an ideal candidate for a cobranded airline card. These cards tend to have more generous perks and rewards than general airline cards.
    • You travel heavy. If you’re always checking bags when you fly, an airline credit card can save you hundreds of dollars over the years.
    • You don’t want other rewards. An airline credit card is a better pick than a general travel card if you plan on only reinvesting your rewards back into travel.
    • You’re interested in elite status. Some airline credit cards can help you reach the next tier of an airline’s elite program faster.
    • You want a companion pass. Many of the best airline cards available offer companion passes, either as a welcome offer or on each card anniversary. These passes are worth hundreds of dollars.

    Get something else if…

    • You don’t travel often. A card with all manner of perks isn’t worth it if you don’t use that card on a regular basis – especially if the card comes with an annual fee.
    • You often stay at hotels. If you spend just as much time at hotels as you do in the air, you might benefit more from a general travel card.

    What are the benefits of Global Entry and TSA PreCheck?

    Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are traveler’s programs that help you pass airport security or customs at specialized lanes. Because of that, you can save an average of 30 minutes on every airport that supports these programs.

    What’s the difference between Global Entry and TSA PreCheck?

    Each program typically gets you through an airport line quicker. Global Entry is for international travelers re-entering the US going through customs, and TSA PreCheck is for domestic travelers going through airport security.

    A Global Entry application costs $100, and a TSA PreCheck application costs $85. But with Global Entry, you also get TSA PreCheck. Both memberships last five years.

    How often do you get free Global Entry and TSA PreCheck with your card?

    This depends on your card. Some cards give you the credit every four years, while others offer the credit every five years. In American Express’ case, you might even get a credit every four and a half years.

    You might want the credit every four years so you can renew Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership well before it expires.

    Here are a few cards that offer the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck statement credit, and how often you can get the credit.

    CardHow often you get the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit
    Chase Sapphire Reserve®4 years
    Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card$100 Global Entry credit every 4 years; TSA PreCheck credit every 4.5 years
    Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card4 years
    Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card4 years
    United℠ Explorer Card4 years
    PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card5 years

    Ask the experts

    Jennifer Burton
    • Jennifer Burton
    • Assistant Professor of Marketing
    • Sykes College of Business
    Eric Van Steenburg profile picture
    • Eric Van Steenburg
    • Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Marketing
    • Montana State University
    Mark S. Rosenbaum profile picture
    • Mark S. Rosenbaum
    • Professor and Department Chair
    • University of South Carolina
    Abhijit Roy
    • Abhijit Roy
    • Professor of Marketing at the Kania School of Management
    • University of Scranton
    Ryan S. Eanes profile picture
    • Ryan S. Eanes
    • Ph.D., PRC – Assistant Professor
    • Temple University
    Paul Rose profile picture
    • Paul Rose
    • PhD Interim Dean
    • Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
    Steven Brown
    • Steven Brown
    • Professor Emeritus of Marketing
    • Bauer College of Business, University of Houston

    Bottom line

    Airline credit cards are your go-to travel choice if you prefer sticking with a single airline during your travels, often offering bigger earnings on airline purchases than general travel cards. But if you’re not committed to a single airline, a general travel card can offer you more flexibility in how you earn and use your points.

    Not sure if an airline card is right for you? Check out our guide to travel credit cards for more options.

    More guides on Finder

      Ask an Expert

      Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

      By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and finder.com Terms of Use.

      Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
      Go to site